“The voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.” -- John Green, "The Fault in Our Stars"

Friday, March 22, 2019

Too Old to Be President?

     I admit to some age bias, at least when it comes to politicians. And in my defense, I'm not the only one. The American Constitution is written with an age bias. It says that someone has to be at least 35 years old to assume the office of the presidency or vice presidency.

     In my mind, you shouldn't be president if you're older than I am . . . and I know this because while I hate to say it, I realize that my friends and I at our age are simply no longer at the height of our powers. And even if we are still relatively energetic and competent now (with the help of Lipitor, Coumadin or who knows what else), what about in four or eight years?

     Most of us retire when we're 62 or 65 or 67. So doesn't it make sense that politicians in their 70s should be looking to retire, not looking for a new job? I don't think we should be electing anyone president who was born much before 1950 -- they're simply too old.

     On the other hand, if anyone was born after I graduated from college . . . oh, come on, how can they possibly be experienced enough, and seasoned enough, to take on the responsibilities of leading our country in these turbulent times? So for anyone born much after 1970, I'd say, go get some more experience, then come back and try in four or eight years.

     In other words, in my opinion the ideal candidate would be a younger baby boomer, or else perhaps an older post-boomer. (So far we've had four baby boomer presidents, with I admit mixed results). But whether you agree with me or not, as the presidential season gets underway I thought it might be fun to see who among our prominent politicians, and people running for president, is a baby boomer, and who is not. No comment on anyone's political leanings or personal qualifications.

     Baby Boomers
     Politician     State    Year born

     Bill Clinton (NY)   1946       
     George W. Bush (TX)  1946 
     Donald Trump (NY)  1946     
     Hillary Clinton (NY)  1947   
     Mitt Romney (NV)  1947       
     Elizabeth Warren (MA)  1949 
     Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY)  1950
     Gov. Jay Inslee (WA)   1951     
     John Hickenlooper (CO)  1952   
     John Kasich  (OH)   1952         
     Howard Schultz  (WA)  1953   
     Oprah Winfrey (IL)  1954       
     Mike Pence (IN)   1959           
     Sen. Amy Klobucher (MN)  1960
     Barack Obama  (IL)  1961     
     Michelle Obama (IL)  1964   
     Sen. Kamela Harris  (CA)  1964 

     Not a Baby Boomer
     Politician     State    Year born

     Too old . . .
     Nancy Pelosi  (CA)  1940   
     Bernie Sanders (VT)  1941 
     Joe Biden  (PA)   1942       
     Sen. Mitch McConnell  (KY)  1942
     Mike Bloomberg (NY)   1942

     Too young to be a boomer . . .
     Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (NY)  1966
     Sen. Cory Booker  (NJ)  1969 
     Sen. Marco Rubio  (FL)  1971 
     Nikki Haley   (SC)   1972 
     Beto O'Rourke  (TX)   1972
     Julian Castro (TX)   1974
     Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI)  1981
     Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN)  1982

     As a follow-on to this thought, I read recently that some Democratic presidential candidates, including Cory Booker, want to set term limits or age limits for Supreme Court justices. Do you agree with that? I could see how it might make sense, based on the reasoning above.

     Other candidates propose lowering the voting age to 16. This makes less sense to me, again, based on the reasoning above. Do you really think your grandchildren are mature enough to vote?


Don said...

Tom, I totally agree with you in this post. I am 65 and have been retired for a few years now. Lately as I’ve listened to the news chatter about whether a candidate might be too old, I started wondering about what has brought this on. Why do so many of my older peers want to keep trying to be the ones “in charge”? I see the same thing on a MUCH smaller scale day to day. For example, the pastor of my church is pushing 70. The church office assistant who handles most everything is 82! Both are great people with good experience and skills to share—BUT they don’t have to be in the primary position. I get the fact that as a general rule we are all living longer and “generally’ are in better health longer. But, even so, we are not at our peak. Why can’t we find purpose and value in stepping to the side (not completely out of the picture) and assuming the time-honored role of mentor and advisor to the next generation of leaders—regardless of the employment position. In some ways it reminds me of seeing a person dressing and trying to be “younger” than they clearly are. Only makes them look sad and out of place in my opinion.

Rian said...

I generally hesitate to comment on political issues, but being a baby boomer myself (1945 - so 'just') I too think that there should be an age limit for the presidency. If I had to suggest such, I think one should be within 35 to 65. If you've reached retirement age (whether you're prepared to retire or not), then you're too old for the office. Granted that some have held the office quite well at advanced ages, but IMO I don't think it's a good practice.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom....hmmmm...I'm of two minds about this. Part of what you say is certainly true. If a person isn't at the "height" of their abilities, do we want them leading our country? BUT, the other side of me says that regardless of age, some people will never have the ability to do it--and even someone with advanced age can be incredibly wise and powerful. I'm thinking RBG of course! Also on a personal level, my husband has been working with a man for the last 30 who is now 95. It is only in the last couple of years that he hasn't been quite as sharp as he used to be. But all throughout his 80s he was amazing. He knew every single detail with his real estate portfolio and if my husband even expressed caution with regards to a real estate investment he would chastise him for being far too young to worry about it like that. (keep in mind he is 30 years older than my husband!) Like most things, I think mental capabilities and age are too individual to call. Rather than care about age I care about character! ~Kathy

Olga said...

You make sense to me. Being president is a demanding job requiring focused energy and the wisdom of experience. If one developed no wisdom from his (or her) experience . . . well I will avoid getting into that.
BUT RBG is not too old for the Supreme Court! Why she wants to keep doing it is beyond me, but I would hate to see her leave.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised at just how ageist I am on this matter. I would definitely like to see an age limit on the presidency and on SCOTUS. Sixty-five seems like a good cutoff date


DJan said...

I too believe that when someone gets to be in their mid-seventies it's too old to be running for president, a four-year term. Plus what about the next term? Even if someone is in good mental shape at 73, will he (or she) still be eight years later?

Jono said...

I am a few months shy of 68 and still work more than full time. Not because I want to, especially, but I can definitely say that I don't have the same energy or ability I had even a few years ago. I don't think anyone younger than 40 or older than 70 should even qualify for the job. I know there may be some exceptional candidates outside of that range, but they might be better as advisors.

David @iretiredyoung said...

I think it's a difficult argument to say that a maximum age limit should be enshrined in law. But that said, I do think that a lot of the candidates are too old and, without bringing politics into it (I'm not American anyway), I think that applies to the current president.

In terms of having the voting age at 16, I'm tempted to side with this. There are plenty of other people who are older and can therefore vote but who don't have any greater maturity. Plus, much of what goes on will impact the futures of this younger generation, so it seems that they should have a say. One could even make an argument that older people's votes should count for less, because the decisions of the politicians are likely to have less impact on them.

tahoegirl.blog said...

I agree that someone in their 70's seems 'old to have such a demanding job as president. But then look at ALL the old"white'men in the Senate... they really should go. Okay, maybe some of the women too. (just to be fair, ha ha)

Laura Benjamin said...

I have to say that I prize function over age. What I mean is, if the person is healthy and sane and a reasonable human being, why not elect him in his 70s if you agree with his policy ideas? I really don't care if someone is older than me (I'm 64) if he's kept fit and is full of life and isn't some kind of Froot Loop that will get us all killed. A younger person who is able to think and isn't some kind of Froot Loop that will get us all killed is OK too. But at any age, if they're frail they clearly aren't thinking straight if they want to have the President's job. And that brings me to a sad conclusion: What sane person would actually want it? Young or old, most of them are after power so it comes down to their reason for wanting it.

Lizzie said...

Life experience should count for something - depending on what that life experience has been. I'm on the fence about age limits because I have met people under the age of 21 that are far more mature than some people I know that are over the age of 21. I do believe in term limits for, not only SCOTUS, but the House and Senate too. Eight years, TOPS. We tend to forget that these people work for us, we are their employers and we should institute some fair, but firm, employment policies. I'm sure our Founding Fathers never imagined that America would be looked upon, around the world, as a big joke.

We already have term limits for POTUS, but just look at our Legal Branch of government, the House and Senate. They have no incentive to do anything - and they don't. They are not motivated to do anything - and they don't. They know that as long as we keep re-electing them over and over again, they can sit right there, enjoying their high-profile positions, until hell freezes over, (maybe even longer). We are living in a polarized society. Democrats keep voting for Democrats - just because they're Democrats. Republicans keep voting for Republicans - just because they're Republicans. Job performance be damned! I'm ashamed to admit that I'm guilty of voting for MY party - come hell or high water. Term limits would ease the burden of having to indefinitely put up with these bozos, or at least allow for a level playing field.

Thanks for sharing and allowing me to comment ...

Marcial said...

Look at the person, not the birthdate. Winston Churchill served as prime minister in his mid to late sixties during WWII. Being in one's sixties during that time is functionally close to being in one's seventies now.

Tom said...

Honestly, more people agree with my age issue than I would have thought. Anyway, let's also remember: At age 63, Roosevelt was in failing health when he showed up at the Yalta Conference in 1945 to negotiate with Stalin, and he died in office soon after. At age 65 Eisenhower had a heart attack, even before he was elected for a second term. And some claim Reagan suffered symptoms of Alzheimer's before he left office in 1988 at age 77. Age gets us all in the end. But I like Jono's idea of using the gray eminences as trusted, wise advisers. Why aren't former presidents given larger roles in developing govt. policy?

Tabor said...

While age/health varies greatly and while we must consider experience, I do think from such a large field we need to look at younger leaders. I also think there should be an age limit on Justices. I love RGB, but really...

gigi-hawaii said...

I am interested in Beto O'Rourke for president. He is around 46 years old, he graduated with a BA in English literature from Columbia University, was US Rep for 6 years, is married and has 3 kids. Net worth is $9 million. How he managed to get so rich is a good question. He is not that young nor is he that old to be president.

Wisewebwoman said...

I liked your question at the end - would we want 16 yos voting and I laughed out loud at the tragedy of all the oldies placing you know who in the WH. I read David Hogg (survivor, Marjorie Stone - soon to be freshman at Harvard) regularly and he is so incredibly astute he takes my breath away.

I don't care for monoliths as I have known 95 yo practising doctors with insight and knowledge on medical matters better than most younger medics.

Having said all that, I know where you're coming from but it can be a dangerous premise.

Energy is certainly compromised in the elderly I believe, and what alarms me most are the obvious symptoms of dementia or narcissism or psychopathy in some far younger.

So analysis case by case and certainly a full medical evaluation, and hey tax returns while we're at it.


Barbara said...

I have often had the thought lately that how could anyone older than me have the mental or physical stamina to be a political leader. As much as we might resent it, attitudes are generational. When you have an old, white racist president I do not think he reflects the ideology of our children and younger. They are making decisions and creating laws that are for the older generation and their needs. The laws and attitudes need to consider what is best for the world our children and grandchildren because it is ours for only a little while longer and theirs for many years yet to come.

Diane Dahli said...

What a great post, Tom! And it just happens to be very topical, given the ages of some of the more desirable democratic candidates. I think that age isn't important in most matters of leadership—but being President is different. Done responsibly, it's the most demanding position there is, I'm certain. So yes, an age limit should be a consideration, but it's not the entire picture. There's intelligence, maturity, humanity, and much more that should be brought to the table. Lots to think about in choosing the next President!

Karen D. Austin said...

I don't think that people should be judged by their date of birth. But I do think that some judgement needs to be exerted about skill set / abilities. If you take 10,000 people at age 60, they are going to exhibit a wide range of ability in higher order reasoning, stamina, diplomacy, etc. based on a mix of innate ability, personality, education, and experience. Knowing their birthday isn't going to be a great predictor of their skills.

A democracy needs a robust education system, a free press, and freedom of information about what the current government is doing. If citizens do not take the time to inform themselves on the issues and take the effort to vote, and make some effort to rise above being emotional/tribal about political issues (they should put country over party) then we get the government that we deserve.

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